CLEARWATER — The only thing that could slow Clearwater down Thursday night was a disabled bus. That only delayed the inevitable for about 20 minutes.
When the other half of the roster finally arrived at Countryside, the Tornadoes were all business start to finish, streaking to a commanding 61-0 victory.
After the Cougars (1-2) had won 12 of 14 meetings, Clearwater (2-1) has rebounded to take the last three matchups.
“Our whole philosophy is ‘little things mean big rings,’” Tornadoes rookie coach Thor Jozwiak said. “On and off the field, we want to do the little things right and hold each other accountable.”
After a season spent at East Lake, senior Aidan MacLean returned to confidently command the Tornadoes’ offense. Coming into the contest with the most passing yards of any quarterback in the state, according to MaxPreps, MacLean cracked the whip on an attack that piled up 313 first-half yards and 389 overall, even with a running clock in the second half.
“Things didn’t work out how I planned (at East Lake), it was my option to come back here and play, and I wanted to play for this team,” said MacLean, who finished 11 of 14 for 144 yards and three touchdowns on the night. “We all work hard, we stay after practice to get our work in … it’s just a great feeling.”
C.J. Lee has been a favorite target early on for MacLean as the pair combined for their sixth touchdown of the season late in the first quarter.
“He knows me because we played JV ball together (at Clearwater),” said Lee, who added an electrifying 57-yard punt return to the house on Thursday. “We have a connection and we still work hard together through summer 7-on-7s and now. Everything I’m expecting to do in a game I’m working on.”
Senior A.J. Stafford made both of his catches count as each second-quarter grab, totaling 36 yards, finished in the end zone.
“C.J., A.J., David James (four catches for 45 yards), Gage Nix, Efrem Only and Jarvis Boatwright out of the backfield … it’s a great thing to have so many receivers,” Jozwiak said.
Only rambled for 130 yards and a score on just 13 carries while Boatwright (8-yard TD and a pair of two-point conversions), MacLean (25-yard run) and James (10-yard romp plus a two-point conversion) also found the end zone.
And the defense was just as impressive.
Linebacker Arquis Reynolds (interception, three tackles for lost yardage and a sack) was a constant thorn in the Cougars’ side while Victor George and Maceo Bennett added picks. Countryside struggled to gain a mere 38 offensive yards on the evening.
Through it all, Jozwiak hammered home the message of playing hard to the final whistle. Prepping for the remaining eight weeks of play, Jozwiak sent out his starters for the second half despite a 54-0 lead.
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“We’ve got to make sure we come out of halftime and play a full game,” Jozwiak said. “Countryside was fighting and playing hard, and we had to make sure we did the same.”